Everybody likes a countdown, whether it's for the foie gras ban or NASA's new privatized space industry. Today we're beginning another one, this time to mark our 100 favorite dishes from Los Angeles restaurants. Leading up to this year's Best of L.A. issue (due out Oct. 4), we'll be counting down, in no particular order, 100 of the dishes we like best in this town. Is this a subjective list? Of course it is. Aren't they all? And if you have ideas for what should be included, please comment below. We always need dinner suggestions.
No. 100: Dan dan noodles from Lukshon.
Sang Yoon's version of dan dan mian, the classic Sichuan street noodle dish, may not resemble anything you'll ever find at a Chinese restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley. Unless maybe somebody locks Jean-Georges Vongerichten in the back room of JTYH Restaurant some day. But this should not surprise anyone familiar with Yoon's iconoclastic style of cooking, in which he utilizes a frightening collection of culinary talent, expensive kitchen toys and possible OCD tendencies to create, well, dinner. Despite the fact that Lukshon is Yiddish for “noodle” (according to Yoon), the restaurant does not have many noodle dishes on the menu, nor was it ever meant to. But it does have Yoon's dan dan noodles, which more than makes up for this.
Lukshon's dan dan noodles have gone through many iterations since the restaurant opened — Yoon tinkers with recipes the way the rest of us fiddle with our car engines or resumes — and the resulting bowl is a glorious study in heat, texture and concentration. It is thus more the Platonic ideal of dan dan mian rather than anything you'd find on an actual city street.
The noodles — made locally for the restaurant — are pliant and happily chewy and tangled under a glossy, intimidatingly rich sauce that tastes like it's made from demi-glace of the sort you might find in a very traditional French kitchen. And although Yoon probably has vats of veal demi-glace bubbling away in his test kitchen (he actually has one of those across the street from Lukshon: dehydrator! vacuum chamber! rotary evaporator!), this sauce is instead built with Kurobuta pork, black bean paste, white sesame paste, chicken stock, housemade prickly ash oil (right), and, well, a whole lot more things. The recipe reportedly runs three pages long. Is it authentic? I guess it all depends on what you mean by authentic. It is authentic to Lukshon, which is all it needs to be.